My homework this week was to do two “service safaris,” i.e. field trips in which we observe how the service of a business or organization is. I had thought of doing one on a special library, like the Chicago History Museum’s, but the CTA has started a new payment service and getting a card for that added a level of hassle that a holiday schedule couldn’t handle. So I wrote about a new grocery story in the Chicago area and a museum I’ve seen but never went into.
For my service safari I first chose to visit Mariano’s a new grocery store chain that’s replaced a Chicago icon, Dominicks. I’d been told that Mariano’s is an elegant place to shop with lower prices than Whole Foods.
- What was my goal of Mariano’s and was it met? My goal was to get some ingredients for a holiday party and to view this new curiosity. I did get my groceries, but I could have done so at other stores, I hoped for good service and that was delivered.
- What was good about the service? When I entered the store, which is the size of a typical American city grocery store, I saw numerous employees dressed in white shirts with black ties and black pants. They looked “smart” and worked like busy bees stocking shelves while chatting with shoppers. I liked that the friendliness didn’t seem artificial.For example, one employee was adding organic blueberries to a display I was looking at, he naturally smiled and added how he really likes blueberries. It wasn’t hard sell or stilted the way exchanges at places like Bennigan’s usually were.Later I saw a man I took for a manager assisting a woman in a wheelchair who needed to get through an aisle.Like Whole Foods there were several places to get samples, and here often the staff as eager to chat. I got a sample of watermelon salad and was reading the recipe that was placed beside the little cups. The employee at this station quickly offered me a copy in anticipation of what I was thinking.When I got a cappuccino as I left I noticed that they also provide ice water with cucumbers or with lemon for their customers. What a nice touch!
- What detracted from the experience? I had no complaints.
- With whom did you interact? I spoke with a friendly employee stocking berries, an employee at a salad counter, one distributing fresh orange juice samples, a check out employee, who’s service was fine, but nothing special, and a barista when I got a cappuccino. I did have to wait a while for my coffee, but it was understandable because one person seemed to be on break and there was someone in front of me. My barista did clearly answer my question about obtaining a loyalty card.
- Were you confused at any time during the experience? Finding the kiosk to input my loyalty card information was a little confusing. I’d suggest this be moved as when you come into the store it doesn’t face you, so shoppers will walk right by it. More stations or better signage can help.
- Describe the physical space. The store is lit artistically rather than with the old fluorescent lighting. Thus atmosphere is created. The produce had a colorful, fresh vibe and the corner with flowers was kitty-corner from the entrance I used so it’s easily seen. The floral department suggests a European style.The aisles are wide so there wasn’t much trouble moving the huge carts, which have spaces for two cup holders, past other shoppers.The deli/bakery area looks very much like Whole Foods with central displays of food-to-go, baked goods, and cheeses. There seem to be twice as many employees as you’d find in Whole Foods.Outside the carts were stored under a metal “tent” that must protect them from the elements a bit.They had wine and spirits on shelves and a special glassed off wine cellar sort of room that seemed elitist. I figured the wine there would be too expensive for me.
- Describe the customer service. As my previous comments state, I found Mariano’s hit the right note with friendly, yet not overbearing staff. Their wearing the white shirts and ties identified them and expressed professionalism. While I’m a big Trader Joe’s fan and like the Hawai’ian shirts, I didn’t find these uniforms made the staff seem snooty. To me it showed that the store owner wants to elevate grocery shopping a bit.
Mitchell’s Museum of the American Indian
- What was the goal of this service and was it met? The mission of Mitchell’s Museum of the American Indian is to:introduce visitors from throughout the Chicago region to the cultures of American Indians. The Mitchell Museum’s mission is to promote and share a deeper understanding of Native American peoples through the collection, preservation, and interpretation of their traditional and contemporary art and material culture.I would say this small museum succeeds. I like museums, large and small, and see the place for smaller museums that don’t take a whole day to view. Like libraries in small towns, I don’t compare them to a big city’s library, but go in ready to experience some charm and a good collection. I come with an understanding that this institution doesn’t have lots of money.
- Was this experience overall positive or negative? I enjoyed my visit and had no significant complaints.
- What was good about the service? With whom did you interact? When I entered the museum, a woman at a desk/ticket booth greeted me asking whether this was my first visit. When I said it was, she asked if I’d like an introduction to the collection. I like that she offered rather than just jumped into the introduction.She spoke knowledgeably about the exhibits and included tidbits of information about the history of different tribes. I felt primed to get more out of the collection. I asked her about how the museum started and she explained its origins.I wanted to get the student discount and wondered if that would be a problem since I’m over 25. Some museums have a cut off for student discounts, and that really annoys me since students of all ages have financial needs. I told her I was a student and started to get out my i.d. She told me I needn’t bother as she’d gone back to school at one point. She trusted me, which I always appreciate.
- What detracted from the experience? They had a storytelling exhibit that didn’t feature a good storyteller. They’d made a video, but the young woman featured had little experience or talent as a storyteller. Outside there were signs for exhibits that made me think they were happening now, but they weren’t.
- Were you confused at any time during the experience? In addition to what I’ve mentioned earlier, some of the signs aren’t well positioned so that you have to look around for an object’s description. It might be on the floor leaning against the wall.Driving to the museum, it came up earlier than I expected. Better signage would have prepared me for the left turn I had to make. Nonetheless these were minor confusions.
- Describe the physical space. There’s free parking in a small lot behind the museum. It’s a two story building. When you enter, you face a big print and it’s momentarily disorienting as you expect a ticket booth. A 90 degree turn and you see a desk where you can pay to enter. Across from this workstation after the walkway to enter is another workstation where a woman was staring at a computer screen. I wasn’t sure if the public was supposed to engage with her or not. Her body language said, “not” so I thought she should work somewhere behind the scenes.There was an open foyer with a birch bark canoe and a few other artifacts. On the right was a small gift shop, with no one behind the counter. I suppose one of the volunteers out front would process a purchase.Around the perimeter of the first floor were artifacts and in one spot a video screen that explained how artifacts had to be stored and cared for. The objects were colorful and in good condition. The signs were clear, though the longer ones could benefit from some “web writing” editing.Visitors can get to the second floor by stairs or an elevator. Upstairs the temporary exhibits had good signs though the layout felt very temporary. I wonder how they could improve this on a shoe string budget.
- Describe the customer service. As a small museum with a $5 entrance fee, I didn’t expect Smithsonian service. I thought the woman at the front did a fine job introducing the collection and answering questions. I’m sure if I had more questions I could have asked her. It was odd that two people were working, but only one engaged with any of the visitors. These two women did not speak with each other either.
All in all, I’m pleased with both Mariano’s and the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian. They both seem to care about their visitors and given their means, meet the public’s needs well.